Let me tell you this one again: A couple of American tourists were strolling down Dublin’s Suffolk Street, trying to decide which of the many fine restaurants they would have sate their educated palate. Suddenly the man sees something in a posh restaurant which grabs his attention. In the window is planted a glass tank full of live crabs, where the diner can choose which crab is next to take a dip into boiling water. He addresses his wife thus: ‘Gee Honey, you have to see this. The water reaches the top of the tank and there is no lid to prevent the crabs getting out of the tank like there is back home. I gotta investigate this one …’
So the American goes inside and meets the manager. ‘Hey, my friend, back in the U.S of A, a restaurateur would have a glass lid on top of that tank to stop the fish going AWOL, so can you tell me, how come your crabs don’s escape?’ The restaurant manager answered thus: ‘Well, Sir, these are all Irish crabs in the tank, and if one of them looks like climbing out, the others will pull him back down!’
Funny – but there is a lot of truth in that parable.
Now first of all, we have to reiterate the fact that Ireland is the best country in the world in which to live – with all due respect to my English and Spanish readers … but without apologies to my American cousins!
But nothing or nowhere is perfect and if illegal refuse dumping is one blot on our idyll, another one is that which you cannot see but can hear. This is the prevalence of the groundless rumour; a lie invented by somebody and sown as a seed among a fertile following.
There are different categories of rumours and at the lower end of the scale there are those minor inaccuracies which are quiet harmless. Somebody overhears a bit of mild gossip and takes it up wrong before passing it on.
At the other extreme is the downright lie; invented and spread with malicious intent. Names and detail are added to give the story the stamp of authenticity. If the name of an auctioneer, solicitor or clergyman can be added to the mix there is a good chance that the story will stick.
Inventing or spreading rumours is a first cousin of begrudgery. This ploy has been known to be used by a business rival in the hope that it will damage the competitor. A nod and a wink and ‘I hear’ is all that is needed to sow the seed and from there the ever-willing foot soldiers will do the devil’s work. Just throw it out there and let it spread like chaff in ‘The Idiot Wind.’
Most people who start or embellish rumours do so because they have nothing better to do. They feel that this ability to command attention, belittle somebody and perhaps get a laugh at someone’s expense – always someone who isn’t there to defend themselves with the truth; makes the rumour-monger more likeable and wanted. The other cousin of rumour-mongering is jealousy. These people cannot be you, they resent the object of their ridicule and believe they are raising themselves up by trying to pull down the victim of their story.
‘Misery Loves Company ’and ‘birds of a feather will flock together’ – and all that jazz. The thing about the rumour mill workers is that they have to stick together. They all know that if one of then gets separated from the pack; he or she will then become a possible candidate for a bit of oul back-biting and a ‘there could be something to it!’
The classic example of the rumour mill feeder is one who feels insecure, low self-esteem, angry at the world – and top of the list, jealousy of others. A little further down the chain there is the link who do it because they enjoy the illusion of being ‘in the know.’ All those who spread lies are nothing more than dysfunctional misfits who can never be trusted by anyone. When one strand of their story is proven to be false, the story gets changed – starting with a ‘Yea … but …’
‘That’s what I was told’, was the answer a man made me one time in Spain when I confronted him about telling the ludicrous lie that my pub was being investigated by CAB. ‘THAT’S WHAT I WAS TOLD!!’ And that was meant to excuse and be a reason for spreading a malicious rumour? But you cannot reason with these people – so we, ‘the doers’ will get on with doing … because, ‘if it weren’t for the doers, the critics would be out of business!’
A funny thing about this country is that the penalty for telling the truth can be greater than for spreading the worst lie!
Experience makes a person better or bitter.